OPINION COLUMNS

Granger’s tunnel vision disservice to constituents

By Brian Eaton | Published Wednesday, September 6, 2017
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While reading the Messenger story about Congresswoman Kay Granger’s recent talk in Decatur, I was reminded of a warning someone told me as I was coming of age to vote in my first elections many, many moons ago: “Beware of single issue politicians.”

In the current increasingly polarized political climate, this is something we all perhaps need to be cognizant of now more than ever.

First, let me say I think Granger is a good person who has many strong, positive qualities and has done many good things for our district through the years (She is my representative in Fort Worth, as well as for many in Wise County). But my thought for some time now has been that she is so focused on one issue – defense – that she has neglected her responsibility to serve all her constituents, and the country as a whole, on everything for which she has been elected to represent and lead us.

A wise political observer who followers her closely told me this was an unfair criticism as she is at least a “one-and-a-half” issue politician. I had forgotten about the Trinity River Vision. I’m as excited as anyone about a San Antonio Riverwalk-like area coming to Fort Worth in the future, but I’m not sure about the appropriateness of spending hundreds of millions, probably into the billions, of publicly funded dollars on this – which some argue will benefit wealthy real estate developers most of all, while we struggle to find money for education, healthcare, transportation, etc. Federal budgets, like local government budgets, company budgets, family budgets and all matters of spending, always come down to priorities. And unless you are one of very, very few and fortunate individuals, you just can’t have everything you want.

Now I’m not saying defense shouldn’t be a major priority for Granger. Her district includes Lockheed Martin and federal funding for its planes and other projects is clearly important to our local economy. I have several friends and clients who work at Lockheed, and even the biggest critics of our current level of military spending acknowledge we need some amount of defense funding.

But in my opinion, Granger has become so myopic on defense issues that she seems to be neglecting almost all other critical issues that face us as a nation. (This focus on defense is also apparently at the heart of why she almost refuses to publicly refute or criticize any policy or comment made by President Donald Trump, even his most outrageous ones that have drawn criticism from across the political spectrum.)

Let me just mention two such issues based on her recent comments in Decatur that stood out showing her lack of what I see as much needed attention: health care and education. On health care, she said she voted for what she knew was a bad bill just to get it over to the Senate where they might try to come up with something better. Now I know this can sometimes just be part of Congress’ political processes, some of which I understand and some of which I’m glad I don’t.

But when a member of the U.S. House of Representatives votes on a bill (in this case, one which would take away health insurance from approximately 20 million people and have other detrimental impacts), she is saying she wants this to be the law of our land. As can be seen by last year’s election in Great Britain (“Brexit”) and perhaps many Trump voters who didn’t care for him but “wanted to send a message to Hillary,” beware of “symbolic” votes, even when the outcome seems to be fairly certain the other way. As the old saying goes, be careful of what you wish (vote) for, you just might get it.

And her response to the question on education really baffles me. The budget for education in our country “just doesn’t mean much to me.” While many of us agree with her that most aspects of education policy should be decided at the local level, federal funding (which don’t forget, is the amount of federal taxes withheld from each of our paychecks, and other payments we all make to the IRS/U.S. Treasury) of public education is a critical matter. Her apathy on this issue related to Trump’s plan to cut more than $9 billion from education funding in the coming year is simply unacceptable. And this from a former teacher? Just to do the math, at an annual salary of $45,000, this equates to 200,000 fewer teachers in our schools!

The simple reality is that if the federal government cuts such significant funding for education, there are only two options – 1. the money either has to be made up elsewhere or 2. the quality of our education system suffers. For option 1, the only really viable answer would be raising property taxes. Are any of you excited about even higher local property taxes? Lord knows we can’t rely on our state lawmakers to do anything about what should be one of their top priorities, finding a way to adequately and equitably fund our public schools. But don’t get me started on that.

If we don’t raise local property taxes even higher, option 2 is that our public schools will suffer. This would result in more crowded classrooms and less services to so many kids that desperately need them. Or perhaps we could just cut teacher salaries. You probably agree with me that most of our public school teachers are way overpaid anyway, right? (Insert sarcastic emoji here.)

As just one example of how “single issue” focus can be counterproductive, perhaps Granger needs to talk with the human resources department and production supervisors at Lockheed. Sure, we will probably always have amazing skills and talent at the aerospace engineer level, but it’s the skills and capabilities of the assembly line workers who actually make the fighter jets that are also critical to our national defense.

Most of these folks do not have education or degrees beyond their high school diplomas. And there is nothing wrong with that. But we, therefore, must rely on the math, reading and writing, and basic reasoning skills these workers learn in our public schools to achieve the critically important goals for what clearly is her No. 1 priority. So please, Rep. Granger, stand up firmly, with your full consideration, influence and votes, to adequately fund and emphasize public education.

We understand that national security is extremely important to you, and that you have a very important role in this area for our country. National security is extremely important to us as well. But so is affordable health care, quality public education, clean water and air, and a whole host of other important matters. These can be just as critical for national security as making sure an additional fighter jet or two gets built each month at our local bomber plant.

Please give all these issues your full attention. Because if you can’t or won’t, then maybe it’s time that District 12 should find someone else who will .

Brian Eaton of Fort Worth is a Certified Public Accountant and graduate of Decatur High School and Southern Methodist University.

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